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First Oz look: Mazda’s turbo MX-5 SE

Turbocharged: MX-5 SE features 121kW and a subtle new sports bodykit.

The world’s most popular sports car adds turbo power

2 Mar 2004

IT may be in the twilight of its life cycle, but the world’s most popular sports car has just been given a kickalong with the addition of the turbocharged MX-5 SE, due on sale here in late March.

Developed specifically for Australia, the US and Japan - where it is to be known as the Mazda Roadster Turbo – MX-5 SE will be priced at a competitive $45,490.

Offering more performance, sharper handling and more aggressive styling for $4960 more than the standard MX-5, Mazda describes MX-5 SE as “unbeatable sports car value”.

Launched locally at the Melbourne motor show last week, the SE is said to be the biggest mechanical change to the convertible first launched here in late 1989 – a car that has found almost 10,500 Australian homes and some 700,000 globally.

Of course, that’s discounting the Mazda Australia-developed MX-5 SP, of which 100 examples were sold from January 2002 at $55,540 with a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine delivering 150kW/280Nm.

The factory-built MX-5 SE will not be as potent as the limited edition SP, but will undercut it by more than $10,000 and should still impress with 121kW (ECE) at 6000rpm – a 14 per cent increase on the standard car at 1000 fewer revs.

With 206Nm of torque available at 4500rpm – almost 23 per cent up on MX-5 at 500 fewer revs – the SE is claimed to reduce the standard car’s 8.4-second 0-100km/h acceleration time to about 7.8 seconds. The shorter final drive gear ratio also improves in-gear acceleration.

The 1.8-litre DOHC engined SE’s improved performance comes courtesy of a single-scroll turbocharger with 7.25psi maximum boost, an air-to-air intercooler and a retuned main exhaust muffler.

Other driveline changes include a more efficient radiator and an upgraded clutch, propeller shaft and differential, while harder rubber is used for the engine and differential mounts.

MX-5 SE’s four-wheel double wishbone suspension features 20 per cent stiffer coil springs delivering a 7mm-lower ride height, Bilstein shock absorbers and increased-diameter anti-rollbars (up 1mm front and 2mm rear).

A revised steering rack requires only 2.3 tuns lock-to-lock, compared to 2.7 on the standard MX-5, while ABS is standard.

SE is the first MX-5 to be sold in Australia with 17-inch alloy wheels (with 205/40 R17 tyres) and a limited-slip differential.

The six-speed manual-only MX-5 SE also boasts a larger exhaust outlet, coloured brake callipers and a bodykit comprising a new front spoiler with extra-large air intake and recessed fog lamps, a boot spoiler and lower rear spoiler.

22 center imageInside, there are stainless steel scuff plates, drilled alloy pedals and a centre dash featuring a swirl alloy finish, while air-vents, door handles and the gearbox surround also get an alloy-look finish.

New seat trim includes a red insert, while the optional black leather trim costs $1000.

All MX-5s now feature a larger wind deflector housing an extra two rear speakers, along with twin front airbags, six-CD audio, power windows/mirrors, glass rear window with demister, remote central locking and seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters.

MX-5 SE will be available in three metallic colours – Velocity Red, Titanium Grey and Sunlight Silver.

The standard MX-5 features 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-speed manual and a 107kW/168Nm engine for $40,530.

“The MX-5 SE is a great all-round package, offering a significant performance increase and impressive improvements in handling, grip and steering,” said the man responsible for the Australian-built MX-5 SP, Mazda motorsport manager Allan Horsley.

“At $45,490 no other sports car gets close to the bang-for-your-buck equation offered by the MX-5 SE. It’s great fun”.

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